As open innovation increasingly enables users to participate in the design of products and services, some groups of people, such as persons with disabilities or illness, aged, or with low-incomes, remain excluded both from the processes of innovation and the use of new technologies
The recent concept of Inclusive Innovation (Guth, 2005; Utz & Dahlman, 2007) has highlighted the importance of innovating with and for excluded groups, with focus in the literature on emerging countries (Foster & Heeks, 2013; George, McGahan, & Prabhu, 2012; van der Merwe & Grobbelaar, 2016). In the 1980s, many companies began cooperating intensively with their environment as part of their innovation process (Chesbrough, 2003). How to best involve users in innovation is one of the challenges that has soon interested researchers (von Hippel, 1986). Few of them have focused on the involvment of excluded groups whereas some have shown that innovating with persons with disabilities or for emerging countries can help discovering new usages, products or services for standard users (Hannukainen and Hölttä-Otto, 2006; Midler, 2013).
Inclusive Innovation has been conceptualized through the Inclusive Innovation Ladder (Heeks & Amalia, 2013). But this ladder is not efficient in studying the link between the participation of excluded groups to innovation and the social impact that can be reached.
What are the different ways of doing Inclusive Innovation in companies and institutions? What are the associated challenges for companies and institutions?
With a qualitative abductive approach, we use several cases, both from literature and field study, to illustrate the concept of inclusive innovation, in terms of participation of excluded groups and social impact.
We rely on two sources of cases :
- 2 cases described in the litterature : the case of the mobile phone in emerging countries dans the case of the Logan car
- a dozen of cases from field study : having participated to 5 to 10 workshops with companies innovating for people with disabilities (intervention research) and having interviewed the designers or developers of solutions for people with disabilities, we describe a dozen of companies cases based on field study.
The companies studied are from very different sizes.
We find out that the challenges of Inclusive Innovation are widely shared between the different excluded groups, be they disabled, aged or on low incomes.
Our results show that the inclusiveness of an innovation can take very different paths.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our paper presents a new framework to qualify the modalities of innovation opened to excluded groups. This new framework is thought as a starting point to qualify the inclusiveness of innovation in companies, institutions or regions. It goes beyond the Inclusive Innovation Ladder (Heeks & Amalia, 2013), proposing to study separately the participation of excluded groups to innovation and the innovation process leading to social impact. The framework is also used to identify all the challenges faced by Inclusive Innovation. For instance, when innovating with users from excluded groups, companies and institutions face difficulties in choosing and recruiting them, having their consent, taking into account the multiple stakeholders, and adapting their methodology to communication, mobility and cognitive disabilities. Each step toward inclusive innovation has its own challenges that research has begun to describe but our paper consolidate them and linke them to the innovation process for good practices to emerge.
Contribution to Practice
Our framework of Inclusive Innovation can help practitionners to better situate their innovation process and begins providing answers to the challenges associated with each level of inclusiveness.
In Inclusive Innovation, we use theoretical considerations to link a society issue to companies and institutions practices.
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